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I have long maintained that successful drug dealers are some of the sharpest, brightest businessmen around. The few that I have had the opportunity to meet and to converse with often possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a firm determination to apprehend their version of the American Dream.

A drug dealing enterprise works much the same as any other. Its purpose is to thrive, providing financial gain for its proprietors. Its owners seek out the best product for the most affordable price, which they then sell to customers at a substantial mark-up, covering the cost of labor, transport, and distribution. Smart dealers purpose to defend their sales territory and stay ahead of the competition, all while increasing both their sales force and customer base.

Now add to these facts that any given drug enterprise must draw a profit without calling to itself the attention of local or federal law enforcement, and you begin to see the skill it takes to maintain such an organization for any length of time.

If it sounds as though I am praising “the art of the [drug] deal,” rest assured I am not.¬† Any enterprise predicated upon the enslavement of another human being for any reason is an immoral one. Drug dealing itself is indefensible. My intention is to point out the level of skill, commitment, and intelligence successful drug dealers must exhibit in order to grow their operations. Is it any wonder that those who crossover into more socially acceptable forms of profiteering, such as rap music, can so readily excel simply by applying the principles of the hustle? As an American and more personally, as a black woman it hurts my heart to think of how many of my brothers, who possess the potential to become great men of substance will go down to the grave or to prison with their unrealized greatness still locked fuming within them – some realizing too late that they chose the wrong path – and others certain that they never had a choice to begin with.

Oh, but for one such as these to discover (not too late) that there is a new way – a better path – a premium choice to become a better man. And what if one such new man sought out others who still believe as he used to and purposed to reveal to them on this side of disaster – before they reached the grave – that there existed an opportunity to make better choices? And what if this reformed man would commit his time, effort and resources to inspire or challenge the blind ones to dream new dreams and to develop a new vision for their lives? And what if this man used his influence and notoriety to call along side himself people, who would then partner with these once blind dreamers to help them see farther than anyone previously imagined possible, and who also challenged the once blind to leave behind the waste of their old lives in exchange for the hope of their new ones? Might such a man use a medium, such as television, to expose the lives, stories, and dreams of the once blind and those who help them to the world at large?

Why do we love T.I.? We love T.I. because he did just that. We love him because he learned a very hard lesson. But he learned it well. In fact, he learned it so well that on his personal “Road to Redemption,” he seems determined to snatch up as many young people as who are willing to go with him.

At the time of this writing, T.I. spends his days in a federal prison on a well-earned weapons’ charge. His choice to break the law resulted in his having to leave behind this fianc√©, his children, and a lucrative (legal) enterprise.

T.I. is a study in grace – God’s grace. By grace he made it out of the lifestyle that claimed the lives of many of his contemporaries. By grace he survived the attack that claimed the life of his best friend, Philant. By grace he was arrested before he could carry out his revenge. By grace he did not receive the maximum sentence for his crime. By grace the onset of his sentence was delayed, allowing him unexpected additional time with his family and friends. By grace he will see this time of confinement as an opportunity to go deeper, meditate on God’s word, and to consider how “the new me [who]’ll be alright” will manifest on the other side of the prison walls. By grace he will make the needed changes in his life that will move him closer to greatness.

We love T.I. because in him we see that one kid – the one whom you love with all your heart as much for who is as for whom he has the potential to become – that one kid for whom you pray to God to make it out of the mess – that one kid you stay after class to teach, live next door to, mentor, gave birth to, raised, wept over, fussed over, fussed at, hope for and fought for – the one you refuse to give up on. I know I want T.I. to make it as surely as if he were my own kin. And more importantly I want every other kid who would look at him to think, “If he did it, then maybe I can, too.” And I want every last one who would walk with him on his road to redemption to join him. God bless T.I., keep him, and return him to his family, friends and fans a better man, who will model greatness for as many as who are willing to pay attention.

God bless you, too, Family!

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